Learning to talk to people who don’t know…

I have a job interview next week. My first in years. I’m grateful that God has me in a place to be picky with what I do next. It needs to be right for me. The culture, the role. I have far less concern about me being right for them. That feels really good! I’m blessed to be able to think out loud with my husband and a few close friends who know my performance-junkie tendencies about what it might look like to move back into the working world. I don’t want my career to be an idol. I don’t want it to be where I attempt to find my identity.
I’m giving thought to what I want to know about this organization with little worry or concern for how I’ll share about my experience. I feel confident with what I bring to the table. But but but…
There’s that question that’ll be asked. I worked full time for almost 30 years (omg – when did I get old?). But I’ve been unemployed for 9 months now. I’m not worried about how to respond to the question. I’m concerned about the “transition” questions. “My son died in August 2012. I immediately went back to work then decided in the Spring it’d be best to take some time off.” Easy enough, right? But I’ve been in this situation enough now that I know “my son died” can be a conversation stopper. The person typically searches for a “transition” question… “Oh, I’m so sorry. Do you have other kids?” “No. He was my only child.” They were hoping – without even realizing it – that the answer would be, “yes, my other children are Bob and Susie.” “Oh – how old are they…” And the conversation has been successfully and smoothly transitioned. Or another one has been… “Oh, I’m so sorry. Had he been ill?” “No. He died suddenly.” Again – a conversation stopper. I’m coming into these conversations more prepared than the other person. So I try to be ready to let them off the hook. But depending on the person that’s not always easy. It’s often downright awkward. And “awkward” is not a word I want to use when reflecting on how this interview went! So I have a plan for how to keep the interview moving forward by steering the transition direction myself. We’ll see how it goes. If it flops, it flops. That’s the freedom that comes with living through a tragedy by the grace of God. An ability to live with a humble confidence because after all, what’s the worst thing that’ll happen?

8 thoughts on “Learning to talk to people who don’t know…

  1. My fear has been to go to the salon the past five years because of the idle chit chat. I know these things not only as a former patron of salons but as a former hair stylist. The questions are always about family and children. I have learned to say that I have three children and if they ask anything else, I let them know Brandon is in Heaven. When they ask how he died…as they always do…I have learned to say he died of “depression.” I have yet to step foot into a salon. It is still a sad and unpredictable situation to be in for me. As we know, with God’s grace we will be able to cope.

    • We carry our pain with us everywhere, don’t we? My first hair appt I called the person (who I had been seeing for a few years) ahead of time and left a message telling her Drey had died and I didn’t know if I’d be able to talk about it. She was very respectful and caring until I decided I was ready to talk about it.
      This might sound weird but it’s really helpful to think through the different options of how to handle things. Just knowing I have options – I’m not trapped by a right/wrong black/white response – is helpful with integrating my grief into my day to day life. Thank you for responding and sharing how those awkward conversations have “worked” for you.

  2. If you don’t publish your posts into a book, I WILL for you!!!!!! You are an amazing writer and those of us who have lost a child and even more specifically, those that have lost to suicide, will pick up your book and read it cover to cover. Seriously, Denise. I am not just saying this to make you feel good. You have a gift. And your writing is better than most all of the zillions of books people brought to me after Matt. You are so honest and real. You wrestle with your faith. But you give such nuggets of hope in your your faith while you wrestle. You are articulate. It is painful to read yet therapeutic for me. So even if you do go back full time to work, please consider, writing a book and putting together all of these posts on your blog!!!! Love, Ellen (a friend to A Friend on the Walk)

  3. Best of luck in your interview! There are no silver linings ever in losing a child, but it’s kind of nice to know that even worst case scenario and the interview goes badly and you don’t get the job you wanted, it’s really no big deal compared to everything else. For a person who has never experienced real loss, that could be a tragedy, but to us it’s not. It gives us some small amount of freedom, I think. Your post was personally timely for me also. I lost my son 4 months ago and went back to work almost immediately like you did. And, yesterday I finally had the strength to say to my employer that I am resigning — I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t really know what comes next and it’s hard not to have a plan since I’ve always been a planner. But, I too will be taking some time off. At some point, I will probably be interviewing again and dealing with how to explain the gap in my resume, so it’s refreshing to hear how you are handling it.


    • Good for you, Laura. You don’t need to know what’s “next” beyond just taking your next breath. It’s easy to say but hard to live by.
      My time of not working has been a blessing. I’ve grieved deeply, had lots of coffee and wine dates with friends, gotten to know my parents better, read lots of books. I’ve even danced through my home when I’m alone. I wasn’t ready to do any of this till 6ish months after Drey died and couldn’t give myself permission for 2 more months after that.
      Be gentle with yourself. It’s a painful to just sit in your grief but for me “being still and knowing that He is God” has been so important to learning to live with the pain.

  4. My son died in May 2012 and I still can’t tell new people that my son died. I can’t mention or even think about saying that without breaking down and sobbing. So I tend to avoid all personal conversations with people I’ve just met. I haven’t been back to my doctor in a couple of years because I know I’ll fall apart when he asks me how I’ve been (he was also my son’s doctor) and I changed dentists because I was afraid I’d be a wreck if they said anything at all to me. That may sound cowardly, but I’ve been learning to do whatever I need to do to protect myself.
    Couldn’t you be sort of vague about a “family crisis” without going into detail during an interview? Anything concerning your son is personal and should be something you share only when you’re ready.
    You are certainly correct about what constitutes the worst thing that could ever happen. You’ve experienced the WORST thing, so nothing else can ever be as painful as the loss of your son. Jobs, houses,cars, etc. are all replaceable. I remember after my son died that we traded in his car and mine (both were over 10 years old) and I got another (newer) used car for myself. Everyone kept asking me how I liked my “new” car. Honestly, I could not have cared less about something as unimportant as a car. Who can care about “stuff” when the love of your life has died?

    • You are far from cowardly just because you don’t put yourself in unnecessarily painful conversations with people you aren’t close to and that haven’t been touched significantly by the loss of your son. It takes a brave person to continue living life after their child’s gone. So, so brave.
      I like your advice about what I share in the interview… You’re right. I certainly can keep it vague if that feels more appropriate. Thank you!

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